Goal looks at the players whose deals are due to end, which of them could leave and who might still be at Old Trafford come 2019-20
Since 1995, the Bosman ruling has revolutionised football transfers, giving players the opportunity to break free of clubs at the end of their contracts, and the pre-contract agreement which has since been brought into the game means that from January 1 players with expiring deals can sign with potential new employers six months ahead of a move.
This January, Manchester United find themselves in the kind of position many clubs have been left in since Jean-Marc Bosman successfully petitioned the courts, with as many as 11 of their players holding contracts which are due to expire at the end of the current season.
The one thing they do have going for them is that eight of the 11 involved have club-option extension clauses written into their deals, which allows the Old Trafford hierarchy the freedom to add 12 months to their contracts if they are unwilling to let them go.
Matteo Darmian The Italian full-back barely gets a look-in at Old Trafford these days and Jose Mourinho admitted in the summer that United were ready to sell if the right offer came in. “Matteo wants to leave and I think when a player wants to leave, if the right offer arrives you have to try to be human and let the player follow his instinct, but not at any price,” the manager said. “And, until now, the offers we got for Matteo are not even close to being accepted.” The 28-year-old could well move in January if the right bid comes in having not made an appearance since the opening day of the season at a time when Mourinho was stretched due to post-World Cup holidays. But if a winter move doesn’t materialise, United are almost certain to trigger the one-year option on his contract to ensure he doesn’t leave for free in the summer. They are still likely to help Darmian find a move though in order to get some return on their 2015 investment.
David de Gea Mourinho stunned the United fan base last week by claiming he was not confident that De Gea would sign a new deal with the club. “I am not confident but I am not worried,” he told Sky Sports in relation to the No.1 extending his contract. “I cannot find the word in English.” De Gea has played down speculation since then but notably failed to commit. “What matters is the team and all of us being focused on what we need to focus on, which is winning games, rather than contracts or any topics that can be a distraction,” said the Spaniard. With De Gea’s contract due to expire in 2019, United do hold a one-year option. However, if there is no sign of a willingness on the player’s part to sign a new deal then the club could be backed into a corner as this season draws to a close. Not yet 28 and considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world, De Gea is a hugely valuable asset and the prospect of him running his contract down and leaving on a free is one United will not be keen to risk. They could even consider a sale in the summer to get a fee if they are convinced the former Atletico Madrid man has his heart set on leaving.
Ander Herrera The Spanish midfielder has seen his game-time reduced by a great degree over the last 18 months to the point where his only Premier League start so far this season came as an emergency centre-back in the 3-0 loss to Tottenham. Having already seen the club pick up his one-year option last season, Herrera’s commitment to the club could well end this summer although Jose Mourinho is keen for him and Juan Mata to stay at Old Trafford. “Juan and Ander, even if they are not playing a lot and not starting matches, by the personality point of view and character point of view, by what they represent in the modern society and in football, they are almost unique pieces that I also don’t want to lose,” said the manager when asked whether he wants to keep the Spanish pair. His character has won him countless fans since he arrived at United in 2014, but the 29-year-old may consider making a move to gain increased game time elsewhere if he believes his next contract to be his last during his peak playing years.
Phil Jones Like most United contracts, Phil Jones’ deal includes a club option to tie him down to Old Trafford until the summer of 2020 and the Red Devils are highly likely to activate the extra year if only to command a fee for the centre-back next summer. With competition for places at the heart of defence being fierce and Jose Mourinho having publicly discussed the need for more quality in his position, Jones has slipped down the pecking order and is likely to fall further down the ranks as United go forward. As a result, the club could listen to offers in the summer once they have triggered their option, giving them the opportunity to cash in on the England defender before they are left facing the prospect of gaining no fee for him in 2020.
Anthony Martial Martial is another player for whom United hold the option of extending their current agreement until 2020, and they are sure to take it up at some point before this season is out. But beyond that there are no real certainties, with the Frenchman having been keen to leave the club in the summer due to a lack of game-time and Jose Mourinho was open to the idea of him exiting too. Martial even picked up a fine after leaving camp without permission to be at the birth of his second child midway through the US tour and the chances of him remaining at the club didn’t look too rosy at the time. His recent goal-scoring form has underlined the talent that many onlookers wish he was able to show more often, and were things to change at the top at Old Trafford then conditions may be more conducive to Martial extending with United beyond 2020. United will not want to lose him for free either way, as he is still only 22 and as such is a huge asset financially. While he will almost definitely not leave for nothing in the summer, this remains a key spell in Martial’s United career.
Juan Mata Like Ander Herrera, Mata has won countless fans with his magnificent approach to life as a footballer and as such is a massive fan favourite at Old Trafford. However, his involvement on the pitch has decreased gradually over the last few seasons and as he approaches the age of 31 United will not necessarily consider him among their priorities when it comes to new contract talks. The attacker showed with his game-changing free-kick against Newcastle recently that he can still have a big say in a red shirt, but with his option having already been picked up last season this will be a critical eight months for him as his deal expires next June. Mourinho has said he would like Mata to stay beyond next summer but such a respected and loved footballer could well find that there is an appeal in his signature beyond Old Trafford too.
Andreas Pereira Having finally stuck around to fight his way into the United side, Pereira has the rest of the 2018-19 season to show he can be a huge asset for Jose Mourinho. Following loan spells with Granada and Valencia over the past couple of seasons, the Belgian-born Brazil international began the campaign in United’s first XI and the signs looked good for him to have a real say. But having struggled for game time following the return of Nemanja Matic, Pereira has again found himself on the outside looking in and may no rush to sign a new deal if one is presented to him. United do have a 12-month option which they are sure to activate, but they will be keen not to lose a 22-year-old player who could well mature into a star in future years.
Chris Smalling Another on whom the club hold a one-year option, the former England centre-back has won back a spot in the heart of the United defence on more than one occasion of late after the additions of Eric Bailly and then Victor Lindelof had looked set to push him down the pecking order. Such resilience should persuade United to tie him to another deal beyond his current one, even if the club option means they will not need to rush to a decision this season. The former Fulham defender’s age – he turns 29 in November – means he is not one of the priorities for contract talks, but his spot as a regular first-team starter does weigh in his favour.
Antonio Valencia The current club captain’s deal is due to run out this summer but United again have the ability to add another 12 months to his stay thanks to the option written into his contract. There could be a willingness to let the Ecuadorian look elswehere with Jose Mourinho having repeatedly emphasised of late the necessity to give Valencia increased time off between appearances, and the skipper’s £100,000 wages could also persuade United to try their luck at renegotiating a further deal at a lower salary. At the age of 33, and having suffered serious ankle and foot injuries in the past, the full-back’s effectiveness has wained of late and United will think at least twice about offering a significant deal to a player entering his mid-thirties. The signing of Diogo Dalot could also help them to cut ties with Valencia, so long as the young Portuguese shows enough progression over the course of his first season to suggest he can be relied upon to play big minutes from next season onward.
James Wilson “James is one of the brightest young English prospects and we are delighted he has signed a new contract,” said Louis van Gaal when Wilson signed a new four-year deal in 2015 but since then the front man’s career has taken a downward turn which sees him destined to leave Old Trafford sooner or later. After his memorable two-goal debut under Ryan Giggs against Hull City and a decent run in the side under Van Gaal, Wilson has had loan spells with Brighton, Derby and Sheffield United with moderate results and is currently on loan at Aberdeen in a move which the player himself claimed was a bid to put himself “in the shop window”. While United have the right to extend his deal by another 12 months in the summer, Wilson is likely to have cut his ties with the club one way or another by the time the 2019-20 season gets underway.
Ashley Young One season on from seeing his contract option selected by United, Young stands in a fairly strong position as the final eight months of his deal approach. Having last season shown his adaptability at left-back, this term he has been regularly used on the right side of defence and has also been handed the captain’s armband in Antonio Valencia’s absence following Jose Mourinho’s decision to take the vice-skipper responsibilities from Paul Pogba. The England star is now 33, so United will not rush to make a decision on his future beyond 2018-19, but his versatility and unassuming nature could weigh in his favour. He is also a favourite around the dressing room at Carrington, having long held the unofficial title of team deejay and remaining one of the most well-liked and respected players amongst his peers.